Imprisoned comedian Bill Cosby is dropping his legal fight against seven women who say he defamed them when he called them liars for accusing him of sexual assault. His surprise decision closes the largest civil case against Cosby since he became mired five years ago in career-ending allegations of sexually abusing scores of women.
Cosby, now 81, was sentenced in September to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, an official with the Temple University women’s basketball team, in 2005. Hers was the only criminal case brought against Cosby, but the entertainer also had been sued for defamation by the seven other accusers in a case that drew national attention, in part because details of a contentious deposition involving his wife, Camille Cosby, were placed in the public court record.
Bill Cosby settled the women’s defamation lawsuit in April for an undisclosed amount. But, at the time, his spokesman said Cosby intended to pursue his countersuit against them. The withdrawal of the countersuit on Friday amounts to a reversal of that stance. Court paperwork filed Friday by Cosby’s legal team did not give a reason for the withdrawal.
“The clients are happy that Mr. Cosby has dismissed his counterclaims against them,” Joseph Cammarata, the Washington attorney for the seven accusers, said in an interview Friday. “This brings this matter to an end.”
The defamation lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts federal court because the Cosbys own a home there, had been one of the more pressing challenges facing the elderly comedian since his imprisonment. The accusers involved in the lawsuit included Tamara Green, a former Los Angeles-area model who was one of the first women to publicly say that Cosby had sexually assaulted her, and Barbara Bowman, a model who penned a widely read column in The Washington Post accusing Cosby of sexual assault during the initial burst of publicity in 2014 about the large number of women who had accused him of drugging and sexually abusing them.
Another of the plaintiffs in the case, Louisa Moritz, an actress who appeared in the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died earlier this year. She had accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in the green room at “The Tonight Show.”
At the time of the settlement in April, Cosby was furious. He accused his insurance company, AIG, of settling the case without his consent. AIG was responsible for his defense under the terms of the defamation coverage on his homeowner’s policy.
After news of the settlement broke, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt issued a statement, saying: “Mr. Cosby did not settle any cases with anyone. He is not paying anything to anyone. AIG decided to settle these cases, without the knowledge, permission and/or consent of Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby vehemently denies the allegations brought against him in these defamation suits and he maintains his innocence.”
The insurer at the time said it could not comment on any specific claims, but “certain insurance policies provide insurers with the authority to resolve claims when the insured has been informed.”
The dismissal of the countersuit on Friday doesn’t end Cosby’s legal entanglements. A sexual battery complaint against him has been filed by Chloe Goins, a model who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008. Former supermodel Janice Dickinson has sued him, alleging defamation. And he also faces a possible trial related to assault claims made by a California woman, Judy Huth, who says he sexually assaulted her when she was a minor.